The Birth of Ruby June

As I sit here staring down at my beautiful three week old baby girl lying next to me in bed, I feel an overwhelming sense of joy and gratitude. I am incredibly grateful to be able to have had our birth story unfold they way it did, knowing that it's one of those things that don't always go as planned. Having said that, I truly believe that ALL birth stories are beautiful, whether it be a home birth, hospital or cesarean; birth is always a miracle in itself that deserves to be shared and celebrated. So I wanted to take time to share our story along with some of the photos that were captured... Dec. 23, 2014:

It all started on a chilly Tuesday morning the day before Christmas Eve. We had an appointment with the midwife at 11am to get my membranes swept, but when I woke up that morning I felt emotionally and physically “off”. I was 39 weeks and 4 days, and up until this point hadn't really had any signs of labor or contractions to speak of. I was starting to feel like it could be weeks before we got to meet our baby girl, and this thought was extremely difficult for me to swallow. As we turned into the parking lot for our appointment, a sudden wave of emotion washed over me, and I soon found myself in tears. Perhaps this was my body's way of telling me that things were about to change?

After the membrane sweep and a good therapy session with the midwife, we took her advice and I spent most of the day resting at home. Around dinner time I began to get frequent Braxton Hick contractions, but they weren't painful so we went to dinner with our doula, Ruby (yes, our doula and daughter have the same name, how very appropriate). I took a hot bath when we got home that night and went to bed early.

Dec. 24, 2014:

The next morning (Christmas Eve) I was still having the regular Braxton Hicks. I knew it could just be my body reacting to the membrane sweep, and I kept telling myself that it was probably nothing and that I just needed to keep busy. I made my final craving request as a pregnant woman (unbeknownst to me) for donuts and coffee and thus began, “The day we pretended I wasn’t in labor”.

After breakfast I started getting some cramping along with the contractions, and in a desperate attempt to move things along, we took the dog on a long walk, pausing along the way every ten minutes or so as a contraction would come on. When we returned from our walk I noticed that I was starting to loose a little bit of my mucus plug, and instead of thinking much of it I opted for a manicure and pedicure. At the nail salon I had my first contraction that made me stop in the middle of a conversation to breathe.

Still not convinced that this was “it”, we went to lunch and even shopped for new board shorts for Will, all the while the contractions kept coming, getting a little longer and stronger as the day went on. Later that evening, my mom came over despite my objections, and the three of us played cards and  laughed about how we could possibly be having a baby on Christmas day. After winning three games of Kings Corner in a row (labor luck?), we decided to call it a night around 10:30pm. I took two Benadryl in the hopes of getting some sleep, and texted my doula to let her know that I was going to bed and we would let her know if there were any changes.

Dec. 25, 2014:

At about 1:30am, I was rudely awoken by a very intense contraction. I went to bathroom as to not disturb my mom or Will and had a few contractions in there before heading back to the bed. I did my best not to wake Will up but soon found myself moaning in pain as the contractions began to hit me one after the other. At this point both Will and my mom were awake and my mom began timing the contractions with my phone. They were coming about every 2-5 minutes apart and a minute long and we decided that it was time to call the doula. I was starting to get the chills so I went to labor in the hot shower (which was amazing, by the way). I stayed in there for the next hour or so and when our doula showed up I got out of the shower and moved back to the bedroom. After one extremely intense contraction on my bed, I had the sudden urge to vomit and did so, all over myself and the bed. From all of the classes and books on labor that we read, I knew that vomiting was a sign of “transition,” and when the midwife showed up shortly thereafter and asked if I wanted to be checked to see how much of my cervix was dilated, I declined. I just knew that my body was doing exactly what needed to be done, and I was confident that it wouldn't be much longer until I got to meet my baby.

I am going to guess that it was around 2:30-3am at this point, and after vomiting all over myself, I somehow managed to get back into the shower to rinse off and brush my teeth. Afterwards, I got as far as the toilet where I continued to labor while holding on to Will for support. I remember it being extremely hot and steamy in the bathroom from all of the showering, and I was not only contracting on that toilet, I was also releasing “other” bodily fluids. Poor Will almost passed out in that small steamy bathroom, and I remember him trying to get me to leave the bathroom but I was not going anywhere.

Finally, I was able to pull myself together long enough to move from the bathroom to the living room where the birth tub was all setup and ready for me to climb in. It felt so incredible to sit in that tub full of hot water in the middle of my living room. I remember having so many thoughts running through my mind between contractions, but I was so out of it and exhausted that I could only lie on the edge of the tub, silent, dozing off between each one. I labored in there for what I’m guessing was about an hour, and at one point the contractions were happening one after the other with no breaks.

This is around the time when I had the urge to bear down. It’s true what they say about your body just knowing when it’s time. I told my midwife I felt like I could push and she asked to check my cervix to make sure that it was thinned out enough to push without causing damage. They needed to check me outside of the water so we tried to wait between contractions to get me out of the tub, but they were coming so close together that I was barely able to make it the two feet from the tub to the couch. Finally, the contractions subsided just long enough for me to get to the couch, and when I got out of the water I saw that I had lost the remainder of my mucus plug and had my bloody show. They checked me and I was dilated to 9 3/4 and I quickly got back in the tub, had one very strong contraction and with a loud POP my water broke. After a good twenty minutes of painful pushing the midwife asked if I wanted to reach back and feel the baby’s head. I just remember putting my hand back there to feel her soft little head and was just completely blown away. I knew I was so close to meeting my girl, and it was all the motivation I needed and a few pushes later, she was out. When she came out, the midwife told me,“reach down and grab your baby!” I pulled her up onto my chest and immediately all the pain was gone and I felt nothing but complete and utter bliss. Ruby was born at 5:51am on Christmas morning, and the first thing I remember saying as I looked down at her face was, “she’s here!” Will held us both as she let out her first tiny cry, and we just stared at our baby girl and each other, in complete awe of what had just happened.

We did it. I did it.

The next two hours following her birth felt like a dream. I snuggled my sweet girl on my chest while watching the sun rise through the living room window surrounded by my mom, best friend, husband, and incredible birth team. We laughed and talked about what an amazing experience we had all just shared, Will held his daughter for the first time, and I melted. I don’t think I have ever felt more love in my life. As I got stitched up from my second degree tears (ouch) Will and our amazing doula cleaned the entire house and emptied the birth tub while my mom made the traditional Christmas monkey bread. The midwives conducted Ruby’s newborn exam checking her vitals and weighing her for the first time. She was a healthy 7 lbs 12 oz. and 21 inches long. They helped me get our baby girl to latch onto my breast for the first time, and it was glorious. Afterwards, we all laid in bed and ate monkey bread while reminiscing about our beautiful birth experience and reveling at our perfect little creation.

Looking back now, it’s clear to me that having our baby in our home was the best decision I’ve ever made. I couldn’t have dreamt of a more loving and natural way to welcome our daughter into the world. It was the perfect birth for us and I am so very grateful for every single person who was a part of our story. There’s something about the people who hold your hand during the most vulnerable and intense moment of your existence that bonds you for life. I have so much love and appreciation for our midwives, doula, our photographer and best friend, my mom, and amazing husband that I couldn’t possibly put it into words. Then there is the heart clenching love that I have for my beautiful daughter. I dreamt of her face so many times, and when I saw her for the first time she was exactly how I had imagined. Becoming a mother is truly a life changing experience and I am so overwhelmed with gratitude for how our story unfolded.

It was the Christmas that changed all Christmases.

Photo disclaimer/FOR MATURE AUDIENCES ONLY: Due to the fact that I spent most of my labor in the shower and tub, the last thing I was concerned about was putting on clothes. While I tried to post the photos that contained the least amount of "nudity" in this blog post, there are a few beautiful shots that just needed to be shared despite the fact that I'm not fully covered. While I am absolutely not at all ashamed of my body and the natural beauty of childbirth, there may be some people out there that do not share my sentiment. So if  you are one of those people, I would suggest that you stop here. However, if you are an advocate of birth in all of its raw and glorious beauty like me, you can choose to view our full uncensored slideshow, on our private vimeo page here. The password to view it is: Christmas

These photos (and the above slideshow) were taken in the final hours of labor by my best friend, Kaysha...

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